Royal Ascot is one of the major race meetings in the year, though it is not one of the 5 “classics”. Spread out over 5 days, this meeting hosts a large number of the so called “group 1” premier races in the year and there is over a staggering £4m in prize money up for grabs spread over the meeting (see schedule for more details)
Up until relatively recently (though given the age of the course, recently means in 1939!), Royal Ascot was the only meeting held at Ascot’s Racetrack. Now the course hosts racing all year round, including National Hunt Races as well as Flat races (for more information, see our profile of Ascot racecourse), but Royal Ascot, is still the most important event in the Ascot calendar.
As you might expect from the name, the British Royal family attend this festival each year – according to the official Royal Ascot website, the “Royal Procession” is scheduled to take place at 1.50pm each day, before racing begins. This is where the Queen rides down the course in an open carriage, known as a landau, usually followed by other members of the Royal family in similar style. This is has been an integral part of Royal Ascot, dating back to King George IV way back in the 1820’s.
Another tradition at Royal Ascot is the dress code. This is much more stringent than regular race days at Ascot, with even the Grandstand Admissions being required to dress smartly (shirt and tie for men, a dress or similar for women), and for the premium areas, such as in the Royal Enclosure, formal day wear, including a top hat for the men, is required.
The 3rd day of the meeting is often referred to as “Ladies Day” and is famous in the UK for fashion, in particular, the ladies’ hats, with many attending in bespoke and novelty varieties – often these can receive as much attention on the TV coverage as some of the races (well, not quite, but it can seem that way!)
The fancy stuff is all very nice, but don’t let it distract you from the quality races held during Royal Ascot. As mentioned above, Royal Ascot hosts a significant number of the “group 1” races in the year, and each day in the meeting has at least one such race. The Group 1 races are the top tier of flat racing in the UK, and all in all, there are only 30 or so Group 1 races in the year, so for Royal Ascot to have 7 of these, you can see it’s a special meeting.
Not only that, but Royal Ascot is the home of two out of the eight races globally that comprise the Global Sprint Challenge, only three of which are held in the UK at all. The Global Sprint Challenge is a global horse racing completion, spanning races held around the world. Points are awarded for positions in designated races, with a bonus prize of $1m for any horse that wins three Group 1 challenge races in three different countries.
We’ve prepared some profiles for the key races, which can be accessed via the links in the Summary Box at the top of this page.